Four years ago, a florist from Washington named Baronelle Stutzman refused to serve a same-sex wedding, saying her Christian religious beliefs defined marriage as between one man and one woman. On February 16, Washington state’s Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that said Stutzman’s actions violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
In its 59-page decision, the court said the case "is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches.” According to the court, Stutzman must abide by the state’s anti-discrimination law despite her religious objections because “Discrimination based on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Stutzman knew that her customers Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed were gay, and had sold them flowers for years, according to the New York Times. She declined to provide flowers for their wedding because of her Christian faith’s definition of marriage. Washington’s state attorney general’s office informed Stutzman that she was breaking Washington’s law by discriminating on the basis of “sexual orientation” and asked her to stop declining same-sex weddings.
When Stutzman refused, the American Civil Liberties Union and the state of Washington sued her. A lower court ruled against her and ordered her to pay a fine and legal costs, which are estimated to amount to $2 million by the end of the case. Stutzman plans to appeal her case to the United States Supreme Court.
“Arlene’s Flowers is not required to sell wedding flowers,” said Washington’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, referring to Stutzman’s flower shop. “They are, however, required to sell wedding flowers equally if they chose to sell them.”
Stutzman’s lawyers argued that the florist had refused to sell flowers not because the couple was gay but because her beliefs objected to the ceremony itself. “It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will. Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees,” said Kristin Waggoner, senior counsel with the group Alliance Defending Freedom and one of Stutzman’s lawyers.
“What the court decided was that now the government has the power to separate me from my livelihood and my faith,” said Stutzman in an interview with the Catholic News Agency. “They’re trying to compel me to design something that goes totally against my personal conscience, and they violated my right to free speech and expression.”